Sunday, January 29, 2012

Adventures in Waffles

It’s been a busy week…hence the no blogging since last Sunday.  I hope to have a few updates for you throughout the week with kitchen updates!

This morning I decided to make waffles, vegan waffles.  It might sound weird, but I promise that turning waffles vegan does not take away from their deliciousness! 

Breakfast is most definitely my favorite meal of the day.  I’m one of those people that orders breakfast for dinner whenever given the opportunity.  Last year, before my conversion, I was considering starting a breakfast blog if that gives you any indication of my love for this meal.  

Once going vegan, my breakfast options were drastically limited…or so I thought.  This is one of the first vegan recipes I found for my beloved breakfast items.  I liked this recipe because of the simple ingredients, no crazy vegan foods here!

I had made this recipe a few times in recent months, and it was good.  But it still had that “health food” taste to it.  They were fluffy and tasty, but they weren’t the golden, crispy Belgian waffles that I was longing for.  I read somewhere recently that chickpea flour or gram flour helps your baked goods to turn out crispier.  I know, I know…no one has chickpea flour in their kitchen.  But good news, it’s easy to find at your local Asian or Indian food mart! 

If you haven’t been there yet, check out the Asian Food Mart on 76th between Cass and Dodge.  It has the “fishy” smell, but the aisles are wide and clean, the lighting is good, and the prices are clearly marked.  They also offer a huge variety of every Asian ingredient you could ever dream of, and a lot of cheap vegetables.  It’s a great place to find the more unique ingredients for your recipes.

So I knew I wanted to use chickpea flour, but I also had an urge to add some almond butter to give it a nuttier flavor.  Really, I didn’t know what the almond butter would do to the recipe, but I thought I’d give it a try.  I also added a little oil to the mix, my last batch of waffles stuck horribly to the waffle iron even after using nonstick cooking spray.   Again, I didn’t know how this would affect the recipe, but I figured I’d throw it in.

This is my altered vegan waffle recipe that I ended up with:

Almond Butter Waffles

2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup chickpea flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup apple sauce
2 tablespoons almond butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup
¾ cup almond milk
1 tablespoon canola oil

Ingredients I Forgot but Meant to Add

1 tablespoon ground flax seed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Mix all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. 

Microwave almond butter for 30 seconds to soften.  Add applesauce, maple syrup and vanilla extract to almond butter, mix well.

Mix almond butter mixture, almond milk and oil with dry ingredients.  Add mixture to waffle iron and cook as directed.  We have the waffle plates for our Griddler, which makes the perfect amount for Jason and I.  This recipe is just the right amount to fill our Griddler without any leftover.

The result…a golden, crispy, Belgian waffle!

I topped my waffle with vegan butter, raspberry syrup and reheated frozen berries (Triple Berry Blend from Costco).  The verdict…Mmmmmm!  Worth a repeat.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The End of an Era

It is the end of an era.  Yes, it’s done!  Beautiful, glorious penny tile is done!  This weekend I finished grouting and sealing the penny tile, and this is what it looks like now.

The grouting took all afternoon on Saturday to complete.  I started by taping plastic over the counters to protect them from any grout spillage.

The grout came in a powder form, and was mixed with liquid “add-mixture” from The Tile Shop to form a toothpaste consistency.

Grouting was fun, but definitely messy!  I started out using the proper tool, the grout float…

but eventually resorted to using my hands. 

Although this made it more fun, kind of like playing with sand, I HIGHLY recommend using gloves if you choose this method.  I failed to realize at the time that I was slowly sanding away my fingertips, ouch!  Also grout it extremely drying to your skin.  Lesson learned.

After applying the grout I went back with a sponge several times to wipe away the excess grout.

I came back multiple times with a damp sponge and then a dry rag over the tile.  The dry rag helped to buff the surface of the tile and make the penny tiles shine!

The grout dried overnight and this morning I started the process of sealing the grout.  I gathered my supplies: the sealer, a sponge, gloves, rags, and a sponge brush for the small spaces.

Sealing is very easy; you simply wipe on the sealer with a sponge, and wipe off the excess off of the tile surface with a dry rag.

I did one coat of sealer over all of the grout, and then did a second coat over the bottom 3-4 inches since that would likely be where any splashes or spills would end up.  The whole process took only about an hour.  I still need to apply caulk along the edges and add trim pieces where the tile meets the wall, but I’m waiting to borrow one of those nice caulking tools from someone (Mom, don’t you have one?).

Since this process went so quickly today I took it upon myself to move onto the next kitchen project, much to my husband’s dismay.  I figured, why not keep adding to the mess since our house is already a disaster.  So now our kitchen looks like this.

It’s a little odd having half of our kitchen completely white (well not white…”Willow Springs” by Olympic) and the other half in color.  But, it is only temporary.  Here’s a little hint of what’s to come.

Inspiration from Pinterest:

I might be insane, but I’m stocked up on Frog painters tape ready for step two this week.

One might ask, “So how do you eat when your kitchen is a disaster area?”  Today I pulled out a frozen pizza from our freezer.  It’s actually a very delicious non-dairy, veggie pizza from Trader Joe’s.  It was my lunch and dinner today, supplemented with a juicy orange.

It’s so nice to be able to eat pizza again!  Stay tuned for painting madness this week.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Like a Kid on Christmas Morning

Early this morning I couldn’t sleep.  I kept waking up before the alarm went off.  2:02am, 3:34am, 4:10am, 6:05am.  Finally the alarm went off and Jason got up to get ready for work.  I, trying to sleep in on my unexpected day off, lay in bed for another 45 minutes but just couldn’t get back to sleep.  My mind was racing…with thoughts of penny tile.

I have been dreaming of the day I would have a penny tile back splash for a long time.  The last two years I have been scouring the internet for kitchen remodeling ideas, and last year on I came across some very affordable mosaic tile.  It was the first time I had seen penny tile.  Not only did I like the price ($6-$7 a square foot), I liked how it had a slightly vintage feel to it to go with our 1941 house.

So I kept coming back to this light green penny tile time after time.  But it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.  I like the idea of color in a back splash, but considering how often I change color palates and paint walls in the other rooms of my house, I became kind of color-shy when it came to a back splash.  I couldn’t commit to color. 

I have found for most rooms in our house (except the dining room) that a neutral backdrop with brightly colored accessories is the way to go.  This allows me to change pillows, art work, and accessories quite easily without having to change major pieces of furniture or the wall color whenever I get a new throw pillow.  I wanted this same concept in the kitchen.

For many months I continued to look for different types of mosaic tile, found a few others that I was interested in but the price just didn’t compare with the penny tile.  There was white penny tile, but I wanted white cabinets and knew this would be too much white.

And then, miracle of miracles happened.  John and Sherry found my penny tile.

Many of you probably know who I am referring to, bloggers extraordinaire John and Sherry Petersik of Young House Love.  They basically have my dream life job, staying at home doing DIY projects and blogging about them.  Anyways, I could go on and on about how amazing their blog is, but you should check it out for yourself.  

Let’s get back to the penny tile.  October 18th was a very special day last year.  Yes, it was Jason’s birthday, but it was also the day that John and Sherry posted about the tile they had found for their kitchen…GRAY penny tile.  I knew right then and there, that this was my tile.

I had looked at The Tile Shop’s website previously and saw that they had penny tile, but the color was called “moss” so I assumed it was greenish.  Thanks to YHL they pointed out that this was actually a light gray color, exactly the neutral backdrop that I was looking for in our kitchen.  The price was also perfect, $5.59 a square foot.

Before Christmas I received an incredible email coupon from The Tile Shop for $50 off $100 purchase.  We were counter-top shopping at the time, so I figured this was a good time to take the plunge and get the tile.  With the coupon I ended up spending only $76.80 on the tile.  So the box of pretty penny tile has been sitting in our basement waiting for today…installation day!  Yes this is why I couldn’t sleep this morning, because I was excited to spend my day installing tile.

Last night I went to pick up supplies for installation at The Tile Shop ($121 after using the 10% off YHL discount) as well as The Home Depot ($17).  Isn’t it crazy that it cost more for the supplies than the tile?  I bought mastic, a trowel, tile snips, a grout float, grout, grout add-mix, grout sealer, caulk, sponges and a roll of plastic that I taped over the granite to help protect it from the mastic.  The Tile Shop was great at helping me find all of the tools and supplies that I needed.

At 9:30am I started with the actual install after an hour of clearing out and prepping the kitchen.  Jason suggested that I start behind the stove to get the hang of it.  With a level I drew a line extending from the counter to make sure the tile was level. 

Then, following YHL’s excellent and very detailed instructions I started laying tile.  (Please refer to their website for specifics about how to install penny tile, they are very thorough!)  I’m lucky in that John and Sherry just tackled this project last week, and they posted all about the tips and tricks that got them through their tile job.  I used the taping method to snip the tile and it worked like a charm! 

Originally I had thought about using a product called Bondera in place of thin-set or mastic, but after reading comments on YHL and other sites it seemed that there was an advantage to the thinset/mastic since you could move the tiles more easily after applying them to achieve an even pattern.  I thought I was going to have to mix up thin-set for this project, but the guy at The Tile Shop said I could use pre-mixed mastic, which I have a feeling saved me a lot of time in the long run.

It took me until 6:00pm tonight to put up the last tile.  I thought I was going to have to make another trip to The Tile Shop for another sheet of tile, but I had just the right amount.  This is all I am left with.

This was another very long, very tiring process, but unlike taking down the old tile and putting up the cement board…it was actually fun!  I warned Jason that I may have a new household obsession to go along with painting and throw pillows.  Here is what our kitchen looks like now.

I still have to grout, probably this weekend, since it has to dry for at least a day.  If you want to see what the finished product will look like check out YHL’s post today, they just grouted.  I promise I normally don’t copy their projects immediately after they complete them (would be kind of creepy).  It just happened that they stars aligned and they knocked out their tile project just as I was getting started on ours. 

In conclusion, I love, love, love the penny tile.  Honestly, it wasn’t as terrible to install as everyone says.  I cannot wait until it’s grouted and I cannot wait to start painting the walls and cabinets!  Stay tuned for completed back splash update.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Back Splash Saga Part II

This weekend was spent prepping the back splash in our kitchen for tile.  Due to the massive destruction of the plaster walls when taking down the old tile, it was recommended by experts at Lowes and The Tile Shop that I put up cement backer board to have a smooth, even surface to tile on.


Last weekend I bought three sheets of 3’x5’ quarter inch thick cement backer board, screws specifically designed to drill into cement board and a scoring knife designed to cut cement board.  All of these items totaled less than $40.

Before going at the 3’x5’ sheets with the scoring knife I watched this video I found on YouTube about cutting cement backer board.

Saturday we started in around 12:00.  The cement board was fairly easy to cut once you got the hang of it.  Along with the scoring knife I used our utility knife to help cut the cross-threads embedded in the cement.  A straight edge, measuring tape, sharpie and a sanding block are also a must for this project.  Also, this is another very dusty task!  This time we were able to keep most of the dust in the garage.

For each section of the back splash I measured the section, traced lines on the cement board with a straight edge, scored the line about a dozen times with the knife, broke the board along the seam, cut the remaining cross-threads with the knife, then sanded the edges smooth.  I did one section at a time and installed each piece before measuring the next section; otherwise my segments would have been off ¼ inch on the corners. 

Rather than trying to cut into the middle of a board for the outlets I cut a vertical seam through where the outlet would be and then notched out a rectangle.  This worked fairly well and made it easier to slip the pieces around the outlets.

My husband the drill master helped me with the installation of each piece.  He understands torque and other settings on the drill that I do not, so it’s a lot easier and faster when he does it.

Winston also helped by standing on the cement board while I tried to cut it and stealing my sanding block from the garage (I think someone was begging for attention).

The process was long, we spent about 3 hours on Saturday and got this far.

The rest of the kitchen seemed to go more quickly today as I started to get the hang of it.  After hanging all of the cement board I went back through with some spackle and a putty knife to fill in the cracks and over the screws that sunk in too far.

After 4 hours of work today this is what we are left with, a nice even surface to put our tile on. 


This step was not a fun one, but I know that it was necessary in order to get the results we want in the end.  It is very satisfying being able to do this ourselves and hopefully save a lot of money in the long run.  Stay tuned next weekend for some fresh tile updates!